tv Forensic Files CNN June 15, 2015 1:30am-2:01am PDT
[ phone ringing ] hello. may i ask who's calling? >> in december of 1994, joanne katrinak told friends about a disturbing telephone call she received from someone she had never met. >> stop calling here! >> three days later, joanne katrinak and her 4-month-old son, alex, disappeared without a trace. telephone records could not identify the caller but investigators suspected that the incident might hold the key to their disappearance.
joanne katrinak was a strikingly attractive young woman, a good student and an outstanding athlete who had hoped to pursue a career in the fashion and beauty industry. >> she was very concerned about her appearance. she was very, very pretty. and, i mean, she made sure every hair was in place before she even took the garbage out. she was a very loving child. >> joanne was known to family and friends for her upbeat personality and optimism, qualities that were tested when her first marriage ended in a painful divorce. in 1992, she met andrew katranik, a 38-year-old building contractor 14 years her senior. despite the age difference, the two hit it off immediately. after a brief courtship, they married and the couple moved
into andrew's hometown in the working class town of catasauqua, pennsylvania. 15 months later, joanne gave birth to a healthy baby boy called alex. on december 15th, 1984, joanne called her mother-in-law at 1:15 in the afternoon and said she and the baby would be right over to pick her up so the three of them could go christmas shopping together. but joanne and the baby never arrived. andrew katrinak came home from work around 6:30. he was surprised to find that his wife and son were not home. the baby's diaper bag was missing. joanne's purse was gone, too. so were their winter coats. there was nothing out of place inside the home. no money or valuables were missing. the only thing andrew noticed was that the hinge on the basement door was pried from the doorjamb and the telephone line
in the basement had been cut. four hours later at 10:30 that night, andrew katrinak called police to report his wife and son missing. relatives found joanne's car down the street in the parking lot of a local bar, not in its usual location in the alley behind her house. although it was locked, joanne's keys were inside the car. on the back headrest were several strands of long blond hair, which did not belong to joanne since she was brunette. on the distal end of the hairs were microscopic traces of dried blood. dna analysis revealed that the blood was either from joanne katrinak or her son, alex. investigators also began to check out andrew's alibi, that he had been at work all day on a construction site. >> he's the last person that sees her alive. the vast majority of homicides
are committed by a person who the victim knows. so you can't just eliminate that by accepting that an individual says, well, i wasn't there, i was at work. >> they said that he must have something to do with the fact that she's disappeared. and the police actually said that, oh, she probably ran away with someone. in a million years, joanne would never, never have run away. and i was quite angry with the police, that they accused andy. >> days passed, then weeks. when the banks reported there had been no activity on joanne katrinak's credit cards, it was becoming painfully clear that joann and alex had been the victims of foul play.
no sign of 26-year-old joann katrinak or her infant son, alex. the katrinaks lived on a busy street across from a local bar. neighbors said they saw nothing suspicious on the day of joann's disappearance. police were skeptical that joanne and her baby could have been abducted in broad daylight. four months after they were reported missing, the worst fears of the police were confirmed. in the remote stretch of rural farmland, a farmer plowing his field noticed what first appeared to be a bundle of clothing. when he looked closer, he discovered the decomposed body of a woman lying on her back, and on her chest, a baby. about 40 feet away was a baby rattle shaped like a phone. it was alex katrinak's favorite toy.
close to the bodies was a milk bottle and diaper bag, with two long blond hairs still attached. the hairs were microscopically similar to the hairs found on the headrest of joanne katrinak's car. since joanne katrinak's jewelry was found with the body, the motive did not appear to be robbery. an autopsy discovered that joanne katrinak had been shot once in the face at point-blank range with a .22 caliber pistol. she had also been beaten. >> due to the fact that she sustained one gunshot wound to the face and then approximately 19 blows to the head led us to believe that the gun probably had jammed. because of the gun jamming, the assailant had to resort to blunt object and beat her about the head. >> the coroner was not sure whether little alex died from exposure or had been suffocated.
>> i can remember to this day seeing that infant being lifted off of the abdomen of his mother. it certainly tugged at our heartstrings. it brought a tear to my eye. if nothing more, it certainly galvanized the law enforcement community and got us moving in the right direction. >> the bodies were found in an extremely remote area, about 15 miles from the katrinaks' home, which told investigators something important about the killer. >> the victims were on the trail. so after inspecting the scene very thoroughly, we felt very strongly that the person who had killed joanne and alex katrinak had been in this area before and was familiar with these trails. >> the trails were used by horseback riders and andrew katrinak told police one of his former girlfriends managed a horse stable, the silver shadow
farms, just a mile down the road. her name was patricia aurora. she and andrew lived together for two years in the late 1980s and again, briefly in 1991. when they broke up, patricia moved to north carolina, had a child with another man and had been living there ever since. when police questioned patricia rorrer at her home in north carolina, they immediately noticed that she was a brunette and not blond. >> you patricia rorrer? >> like the hairs found in joanne's car and diaper bag. she said she was in north carolina the day of the disappearance in pennsylvania and had witnesses to prove it. >> thanks for your time. >> i think she gave us something like four or five alibis as to where she was at. one, she was at a private club. one, she was out buying feed for
horses. one, she was at a tanning salon. >> but andrew katrinak had another surprise for investigators. he remembered that patricia rorrer called his home just three days before his wife and son disappeared. joanne answered the phone and when patricia rorrer identified herself, the two argued. >> look, andy has told you to stop calling her. we have a baby now. we're happy together. just leave us alone. stop calling here! >> patricia rorrer denied making that call and her home telephone records confirmed her story. with brunette hair, an alibi and no evidence she called the katrinaks' home, investigators feared they had hit a dead end.
investigators wanted to know as accurately as possible when joanne and alex katrinak were killed. although the bodies were discovered four months after they disappeared, it wasn't clear how long the bodies had been in the field. the bodies contained evidence of insect activity and police asked dr. kim, a forensic entomologist
at pennsylvania state university for analysis of what the insect activity revealed about the time of death. >> this case was complicated because two bodies involved, two victims involved. at the same time that a body were laying on the ground in the wild in wintertime. and so that there are different waves of insect attacks, insect invasions to the body. >> first, dr. kim found the hard outer shell of a species of blowfly that had progressed to its final stage of development. dr. kim also found another species that was just beginning its third and final stage of development. these two factors told dr. kim
that the bodies had been in the field for at least 51 days, since early february. when dr. kim looked at the local weather conditions, he also noticed another important piece of information. between december 21st and the 28th, local temperatures were unseasonably warm, reaching 50 degrees, the perfect conditions for these two species to mate and lay eggs. investigators now knew that the bodies had not been placed in the field recently. they were there since february and possibly as early as december, the time of the abduction. patricia rorrer's telephone records revealed that she made long distance telephone calls from home almost every day. but there were no calls made between december 11th and the 16th, suggesting she was not in north carolina when joanne katrinak and her son were abducted. patricia said she was at the
cowboy's nightclub in north carolina on the night of the abduction. a state law requires all patrons of the club to sign in. but patricia rorrer was not signed in on that date. patricia rorrer also denied owning a .22 caliber pistol and a search of her home turned up nothing. but one of her old boyfriends contradicted her. he told police patricia rorrer owned a .22 caliber chrome plated semi-automatic weapon like this one and said the gun had a unique characteristic. >> the unusual feature about the gun, he stated, was the fact you fire one shot out of the gun and the gun would jam. you couldn't fire a second shot. that really caught our attention, of course. >> police still had the problem with the blond hair found at the scene and in the victim's car, since patricia rorrer was a brunette. >> we were sitting in our office one day and we were discussing
how could we determine what color patricia rorrer's hair was at the time of the murder. and we both agreed the only way to do that was try to obtain a picture of her in and around the time of the murder. >> after a little digging, police discovered that patricia rorrer competed in a horse show in guthrie, oklahoma in december of 1994, and had won a prize at the competition. the pictures of the winners that day showed patricia rorrer with bleached blonde hair. the photo was taken just 11 days before jonne and alex katrinak disappeared. prosecutors needed more than just a photograph. they needed to know for certain whether the blonde hair at the crime scene belonged to patricia rorrer.
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the car did not contain enough root material for traditional dna testing. investigators only hope was to try a new type of dna test, one that had never been admitted into evidence in a pennsylvania trial, something called mitochondrial traditional dna analyzing the nucleus of the cell, cells that can be identified although not as precisely as traditional dna testing. >> most hairs from crime scenes have very, very little amounts of dna. however, there is more mitochondrial dna, in those hairs, is more dna therefore in hairs obtained from crime scenes. most of the time we can't obtain the mitochondrial dna sequence or we would fail. >> to identify the dna sequence, a pcr test was conducted and the dna sequences from the blonde
hair matched patricia's dna profile. this was enough to convince prosecutors that patricia was at the crime scene and inside joanne katrinak's car. patricia rorrer was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. prosecutors believe that patricia rorrer was in pennsylvania and not north carolina when she called for andrew katrinak. >> hello? may i ask who is calling? >> when joann answered the phone, patricia's hopes of meeting andrew for old times sake were dashed. >> we have a baby now. we're happy now. just leave us alone. stop calling here. >> when joanne hung up, prosecutors believe rorrer got angry and sought revenge.
for the next three days, rorrer stalked the katrinaks' home to observe joanne's daily routine. on december 15th around 1:00 p.m., patricia broke into the basement and overheard joanne on the telephone with her mother-in-law. >> we're about ready to leave, okay? >> when she heard katrinak was leaving, she decided to wait for them outside in the alley and cut the telephone line to prevent any further calls. >> don't make any noise. >> at gunpoint, patricia forced joanne into her car, ordering her to drive to the remote farmland. patricia rorrer fired a single shot into joanne katrinak. and when the pistol jammed, beat her to death.
the baby was left on his mother's chest. the murder weapon was never found, but patricia rorrer left two bleach blonde hairs at the crime scene and some hair stained with the victim's blood in joanne's car as she drove it back to town. at the trial, patricia rorrer's defense team scoffed at the notion that an alleged argument she had with joanne katrinak was a motive for murder. >> the defense said come on, that can't be a motive. normal people don't act like that. and he was right. normal people don't act like that, but this particular person is not normal and acted that way. >> after two hours of deliberation, the jury found patricia rorrer guilty of both murderers and she was sentenced to life in prison. >> she's going to have to live with what she did, and i hope
her life isn't happy because mine isn't. i tried to get on with my life and i've made some, you know, strides. but you never, ever get over the loss of a child or a grandchild. >> the case was a first in the state of pennsylvania and was only the third time in the united states that a conviction was secured with mitochondrial dna. >> this case is a classic example of the power of mitochondrial dna. the only evidence in this case were the three hairs from the crime scene. three hairs that, unless you looked hard for, you might easily pass over. >> i'd have to say this, in all my years in law enforcement, the katrinak investigation is one of the finest pieces of police work that i've had the pleasure of being involved in. there were many unique challenges to this
investigation. the technology that we employed and the development of at least one key piece of forensic evidence was literally 21st century technology in the 20th century. happening now. how did two killers break out of prison. this morning, the search widening as the woman accused of helping them escape, she prepares to face a judge. terrorists targeted. a u.s. military air strike goes after a isis chief. jeb bush set to formally and finally announce he is running for president. as hillary clinton comes out against president obama on a piece of legislation.